US Government goes into shutdown as Senate fails to pass new budget

As of 00:01 on 20th January 2018  the United States government has officially shut down after the Senate failed to pass a bill funding the government operations. On Friday night, the Republicans’ effort to keep the government open for one more month was rendered unsuccessful after the bill was rejected by a deficit of 60 votes. This happened amidst failure of the two houses to reach a consensus regarding the young illegal migrants known as dreamers.

Federal law requires agencies to shut down in the eventuality of the Congress failing to allocate money for its functioning, forcing hundreds of “non-essential” federal employees to go on a temporary unpaid leave.  Barring essential services such as national security, postal services, air traffic control, inpatient medical services, emergency outpatient medicine, disaster assistance, prisons, taxation and electricity generation, most of the federal agencies are no longer functional.

The shutdown coincides with the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s Presidency. While he took to Twitter accusing Democrats of putting politics above the interests of the American people, Chuck Schumer, the leading Senate Democrat, blamed the president of turning down two bipartisan compromise deals and added that “a Trump shutdown will serve as a perfect encapsulation for the chaos he has unleashed”.

This is the first shutdown to happen in the history of the country while both the White House and the Congress is under the control of the same party. The last one was in 2013 and lasted for 16 days.

Sources – The Guardian, BBC

Donald Trump denies border wall changes

John Kelly told Fox News that President Trump’s views on the construction of the Mexico Border wall have changed from the original deal he had made. The statement he made was “Campaigning is very different from governing”. He was appointed by Trump in July as the chief of staff who these comments to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The Retired General, John Kelly told openly that the there were many more facts the President was yet to know.”He was not fully informed” Kelly says.  

 

It was minutes later that Donald Trump had tweeted denying the fact. He expressed his view informing that he may directly or indirectly pay for the border wall. Trump’s moves are supposedly going as per the plan is what was portrayed in his tweet. “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” informs Donald Trump.  

 

During the election campaign, Trump said he is expecting that Mexico would pay entirely for the border wall. The New York Times had published a piece which said that Mr Kelly appears to be saying he thinks “that it is his job to tutor a sometimes-ill-informed president who has never served in public office before”. 

 

Sources – BBC, The Telegraph  

US withdraws more than half of its UNRWA aid for Palestinians

The US has announced that it will withhold more than half of its funds to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) that supports the Palestinian refugees. This decision comes only two weeks after US president, Donald Trump’s tweet saying that America receives no “appreciation or respect” from the Palestinians in return for its aid of “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

However, the state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that this decision was not aimed at punishing anyone and added that it was directed at bringing about reforms within the agency. She refused to give any details about the nature of the reforms that the US was looking for.

Of the scheduled $125m, the US will provide only $60m to UNRWA. Making it the single largest donor nation, last year the US contributed $370m to the agency that runs various health, social and educational projects for the refugees. The money withheld was part of this year’s first instalment.

Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian chief who now serves as its humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said that the withdrawal of funds could have a devastating effect on Palestinian refugees, especially affecting the thousands of refugee children whose education is funded by the UNRWA.

Israel who is embroiled in a conflict with Palestine over the status of Jerusalem is in favour of the decision and accused the agency of misusing humanitarian aid and supporting “anti-Israel propaganda”. A month ago Trump had recognised the city as the capital of Israel drawing severe criticism from the Palestinians. The declaration was later voted null and void by the UN member nations at the General Assembly.

Sources – CNN, BBC

LeBron James accuses Donald Trump of emboldening racism

Image Courtesy: Getty Images
LeBron James (right, pictured with Steph Curry) praised Martin Luther King Jr. and said that all that he fought for could not be overlooked; Americans must stand united.

Cleveland, Ohio (U.S.), January 16: LeBron James, basketball star of the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Monday accused President Donald Trump of emboldening racists in the United States while on the flipside prompting the country to disallow itself from being divided along racial lines.

“The guy in control has given people and racism … an opportunity to be out and outspoken without fear,” James, a frequent Trump critic, told reporters prior to the Cavaliers’ game against the Golden State Warriors on the U.S. holiday honouring civil rights activist Martin Luther King.

“And that’s the fearful thing for us because it’s with you and it’s around every day but he’s allowed people to come out and just feel confident about doing negative things.”

During a White House meeting with lawmakers, over discussions pertaining to U.S. immigration policy, Trump reportedly called some African nations “shithole countries”.
He denied using such derogatory language, which has drawn contempt from many African leaders and international rights organizations. He also told reporters he was “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s murder. James said he was highly appreciative of the leader’s sacrifice. “He took a bullet for all of us. And for us to stand here even though we’re trying to be divided right now by somebody, today is a great day for people to realize how America was built and how we all have to stand united in order to be at one.”

Four-time winner of the National Basketball Association’s most valuable player award, James, in August, slammed Trump for saying there were “some very fine people on both sides” of protests spearheaded by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one counter-protester dead.

In September, James called Trump a “bum” on Twitter after the latter withdrew a White House invitation to Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who had stated that he did not wish to meet with Trump in order to celebrate the Warriors NBA 2016-2017 Championship.

 

Sources: The Guardian, News18

Trump says Fire and Fury is “full of lies”

Donald Trump, president, USA dismissed a newly released book containing damaging allegations on his campaign and administration. The Hindu reported that after he failed in blocking its release, he said that the book is “full of lies” and invented sources.

The book quotes Trump’s former top aide, Steve Bannon- the man who engineered the New York real estate mogul’s link to the nationalist far right. He further helped in establishing a pro-Trump media ecosystem. In the book, he is described in a meeting with the Russians. In this meeting, Trump’s son was present as “treasonous “. The book also expresses serious doubt about his fitness for office.

As per BBC, in reference to the meeting, Bannon allegedly said,”They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff survived various attempts of blockage by Trump’s lawyers. It has now gone on sale early.

Trump took to Twitter, “I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for the author of phony book! I never spoke to him about the book. Full of lies, misrepresentations, and sources that don’t exist.”

According to BBC, the book makes various claims such as Trump and his team were shocked by his election win. Melania, his wife, was in tears of sadness on election night. After his win, Trump “found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary.” Ivanka Trump, his daughter, mocked her father’s “comb-over” hairstyle and “often defined the mechanics behind it to her friends.”

Trump’s lawyers sent a legal notice regarding the same. It has been published by the Washington Post. It states that Wolff and the publisher of the book should “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book.”

Sources – The Hindu, BBC

 

 

United States suspends its $ 1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan

The United States has suspended its security assistance of more than $1.15 billion to Pakistan for failing to take decisive action against the terror groups within its border on Thursday.

The decision of suspending security assistance comes days after the US President Donald Trump tweeted on New Year, accusing Pakistan of lying and deceiving the United States and harboring terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. He also threated to cut off all the military aid to Pakistan.

According to US officials, two main categories of aid, Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF) are affected by the suspension. FMS funds purchases of US military hardware, training and services and CSF reimburse Pakistan for counterterrorism operations. The officials also stated that the suspension did not affect civilian aid to Pakistan and that the money could go through if Islamabad took decisive action against the groups.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told the reporters on Thursday that the national security assistance to Pakistan is suspended until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against the terrorist groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. “We consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting US personnel, “she said. “The US will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law,” she added.

 

Sources – TOI, CNN

Trump’s Travel Ban in Full Effect After Being Approved by the US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court, on Monday, has allowed US President Donald Trump’s travel ban to be enforced by his administration despite the numerous appeals and legal challenges it faced. The ban on travel of residents from six mainly Muslim countries and two others can be instantly inflicted while challenges of the ban are settled in multiple court cases.

The Justices at the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the travel ban with merely two dissenting votes. The final tally of 7-2 has come as a major blow to anti-discrimination activists and supporters who expected the final resolution to be announced after months of contemplation. The ruling would uphold the latest version of the entry visa ban affecting prospective travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen along with residents of North Korea and Venezuela, that Donald Trump announced in September.

According to The Guardian, travelers from these countries would be allowed passage into the US if they possessed “bona fide” links within the United States such as reported business intentions; or immediate family relationships. The ruling, however, does not constitutionalize the ban but recognizes its merits and importance as put forward by Trump’s administration. The Supreme Court is expected to conduct a full review into the merits and demerits of the ban – whether it infringes any constitutional protections against discrimination -in the next few months.

The Times Of India stated that 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco and the Richmond, Virginia-4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, will be conducting sessions with arguments regarding the nature of the ban and its legality this week. The Supreme Court expects the courts to reach an appropriate conclusive pronouncement as soon as possible as its ability to hear and rule on this issue by the end of June relies on their decision.